Why it’s time to invest in your teams

Dr Fran Longstaff
May 31, 2022
min read
working remotely team

The rise in agile, digital and knowledge-based businesses is making effective teamwork more important than ever, as companies compete to innovate. At the same time, the increase in remote working is challenging teams in ways they’ve never been challenged before. So, what can businesses do to ensure confident and cohesive team performance, despite the challenges that come with working remotely?

The importance of ‘teaming’

In 2019, a report published by Deloitte entitled Organisational performance: It’s a team sport,’ found that many organisations are moving away from traditional hierarchical business models to be more team-based. 31% of those surveyed reported that they did most, or all, of their work as part of a team. 

While businesses who adopt a team-based model still have senior leaders, they differ from traditional models in two ways:

1) Teams typically have more strategic responsibility
2) Teams are dynamic, often rapidly re-organising into different groups to work on different projects. While this might sound like a lot of work operationally; 74% of businesses who have moved to this model have reported improvement in performance. 

Effective ‘teaming’ and teamwork requires effort but critically; if teams can work together effectively they are able to deliver outcomes that are greater than the sum of their individual parts. 

The characteristics of effective teams

Since the 1980’s there has been a sharp increase in the amount of academic research undertaken to define the characteristics of effective teams and teamwork. 

Broadly speaking; effective teams are able to coordinate, communicate and adapt. They are characterised by cohesion, collective efficacy, commitment, psychological safety, trust, communication and a shared understanding of each other and the wider situation. 

Challenges facing teams in 2022

Although it is widely accepted that effective teamwork leads to improved productivity, creativity and culture; the pandemic - and the increase in remote working - has negatively impacted team functioning. Despite an initial spike in productivity, many businesses are now struggling with unmotivated teams, poor connection, creativity and culture plus a high staff turnover. In fact, findings from two recent surveys have revealed that 56% of workers don’t believe they are part of a capable team and 75% of remote employees believe that team collaboration has suffered the most in remote work. 

Although many businesses are well aware of the benefits that come with impromptu conversations by the watercooler, the majority are still not willing to give up flexible working and recall their workers back to office.

Training for dynamic remote teams

Many businesses are currently facing the same challenge. How do they improve team functioning while maintaining the benefits of remote and flexible working?

Although businesses certainly aren't short of options when it comes to team training providers, it's important that they really question how effective these providers will be in genuinely solving the problems that they’re facing (e.g. creativity, connection, motivation etc).

Team training has traditionally been delivered through ‘one-off’ sessions led by an expert in one of the following areas; goal setting, team reviews, role clarification, leadership styles, psychological safety or team building. While these sessions provide valuable content, it is important to acknowledge that they are often limited in the degree to which they can deliver sustainable, improved team functioning. 

Crucially; Only 1 in 5 of us actually apply anything we’ve learnt from one-off training sessions, because they do little to change existing habits and practices. This is likely to be an even greater challenge in remote teams.

Furthermore, one-off team training does not lend itself to the current world of dynamic, ever-changing teams. As teams rapidly form, disband and re-group with different members, teams need to be doing training together on a regular basis that is tailored to both the make-up of the members and the specific challenges they’re facing. In short, teams don’t just need training. They need tools that enable them to train together and improve their existing ways of working (e.g. meeting tools). This is what we do at Fika: Mental Fitness

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Dr Fran Longstaff
Head of Psychology

Dr Fran Longstaff is Head of Psychology at Fika Mental Fitness. With more than 15 years' academic and applied experience in sport and exercise psychology, Fran oversees Fika's Behavioural Science output, designing and implementing organisation-wide Mental Fitness training programmes for Fika's client-base of more than 80 businesses, education institutions and healthcare organisations. She is passionate about training leaders and managers in how to build their own and their team’s Mental Fitness in order to transform the culture, output, productivity and happiness of their workplaces. Fran worked as a lecturer in Higher Education for 13 years before joining Fika, and still works closely with Fika's board of academic experts.

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